Antenna adventure

My antennas, Mk. IV.

I’m finally moving toward free television, again. The setup you see here is the fourth configuration I’ve tried here, and it’s still not right. Over-the-air television reception seems more art than science, with a generous dose of trial and error.

Previous to what you see here, things were dead-simple. I had a single antenna, which is the bottom one in the photo. It’s pointed directly at the Toronto transmitters, which are 68 kilometres away. I also want to receive the Buffalo stations, but those vary between 14 and 62 kilometres distant. Because most of them are very close, I was hoping to receive them despite the antennas not being aimed at them. In fact, they’re located between 120º and 150º off axis. The results vindicated my plan. The signals were easily strong enough, but the strength wasn’t the problem. I believe there was a multipath issue because without exception, the Buffalo stations were strong, but suffered a signal drop off every few seconds.

What you see here is my answer to this problem. The big antenna is taking care of Toronto, and a smaller antenna attends to Buffalo. It was a good idea, but it brought another problem. The second antenna made short work of the Buffalo stations, resulting in a signal strength and stability I’ve never seen before. The problem is that the smaller antenna receives enough of the Toronto signals to interfere with those signals from the other antenna. I believe it’s a phasing issue in which one signal subtracts from the other, resulting in a far weaker signal. I believe that there are two significant causes. One is that I combined the signals from both antennas and brought them into the house on the same cable. This allows them to interact with each other, in either good or bad ways. The other is that the antennas are different. When combining signals, the general rule is the antennas should be the same.

There are two remedies I can try. I can replace the big antenna with a twin of the smaller one. This could clear up the problem but I really doubt it will. My reasoning is that the big antenna, a ChannelMaster 4228, is simply a melding of two of the smaller antenna, a ChannelMaster 4221, side-by-side. The other option is to separate the signals. If I bring in the signals from each antenna on a separate cable, the signals can’t interfere with each other. I know the Toronto signals can come in just fine, because they did before I added the second antenna. I already have the cable, but I do need another signal pre-amplifier. The Toronto signals are weak to begin with, and tuner is at the other end of a 20 metre co-ax cable. A pre-amp is required to the tune of another $70.

I started pursuing over-the-air reception when I lived in Ottawa because of my absolute loathing of cable television and the companies that offer it. The loathing is still there, but I’m even more eager now because of the plethora of available stations around here. This is what I can expect to get when I’ve got everything just so:

2.1 – NBC, Buffalo
2.2 – Weather Nation
2.3 – Retro TV
4.1 – CBS, Buffalo
5.1 – CBC, Toronto
7.1 – ABC, Buffalo
9.1 – CTV, Toronto
11.1 – CHCH, Hamilton
17.1 – PBS HD, Buffalo
17.2 – PBS Think Bright
19.1 – TV Ontario
23.1 – CW Network
23.2 – Bounce TV
25.1 – CBC French, Toronto
26.1 – Trinity Broadcast, Jamestown
26.2 – Trinity Broadcast, Jamestown
26.3 – Trinity Broadcast, Jamestown
29.1 – FOX, Buffalo
29.2 – ZUUS Country Music Videos
35.1 – CTV Two, Hamilton
36.1 – CTS, Hamilton
40.1 – OMNI 2, Toronto
41.1 – Global HD, Toronto
47.1 – OMNI 1, Toronto
49.1 – The WB
51.1 – ION, Batavia
51.2 – QUBO Kids, Batavia
51.3 – ION Lifestyle, Batavia
51.4 – ISHOP Network
51.5 – QVC Televised Shopping
51.6 – Home Shopping Network
57.1 – CITY TV, Toronto
67.1 – ME TV
67.2 – THIS TV
67.3 – ME TV
67.4 – Daystar TV, Religion

Frankly, much of that lineup is of little interest to me. The shopping, kids, weather, religion, French, and country music stations will likely not make it to my final line up. Still, all the major networks are there, and the monthly costs are exactly $0. To me, the loss of the cable speciality channels more than makes up for not having to pay the monthly fee for cable.

Let’s chat

It’s funny, I’ve noticed that one learns a lot of vocabulary in science-fiction. This is also true to a lesser degree in fantasy, but it’s mostly science-fiction in my experience. Before you say this is obvious, know that I don’t mean only technical terms. I’ve mentioned that I recently watched Firefly again, and this one popped out at me for the first time:

Palaver, noun & verb. e18

A noun.

1 In W. Africa: a dispute, a contest. e18

b hist. A talk, a conference, a parley, esp. between (African) tribespeople and traders or travellers. m18.


a Unnecessary, profuse, or idle talk. m18.

b Cajolery, flattery. m18.

3 Business, concern. W. Afr. colloq. l19.

4 A tiresome or lengthy business; (a) fuss, (a) bother; trouble. colloq. l19.

B verb.

1 verb trans. cajole, flatter, wheedle, (a person). Also folk. by into, out of. e18.

2 verb intrans. Talk unnecessarily, profusely, or idly; jabber. m18.

The origin of palaver is uncertain, but it’s probably West African pidgin from the Portuguese palavra from the Latin parabola, meaning parable.

I was astonished because in all the times I’ve seen the episode (“Shindig”), I didn’t hear it. This time it was different only because the writer appears in the commentary track, and she mentioned that because the word is no longer in common use, no one knew how to pronounce it. This is doubly strange because I’m pretty sure I’ve heard that commentary track before. Not all of it, apparently.


I’m not in the habit of posting pictures of women and simply saying “Wow” (don’t!) but look at Emilia Clarke at the third season Game of Thrones premier. The outfit suits her perfectly. Lovely.

Emilia Clarke arrives at HBO’s Game Of Thrones Los Angeles Premiere at TCL Chinese Theatre on March 18, 2013 in Hollywood, California.

Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic